This is the sound of a Philadelphia 76ers fan’s head smashing on his desk at Dime headquarters. I was having a perfectly nice day up until this afternoon when I saw this item at the end of Kate Fagan’s latest “Deep Sixer” blog entry on Philly.com about the Sixers and their (potential) place in the Tracy McGrady trade talks. Absolutely horrifying.
Here’s something hard and fast to consider as the trading deadline comes closer and it’s becoming less and less likely the Sixers will make a franchise-changing deal:
According to a source with first-hand knowledge of the situation, the Houston Rockets were willing to trade McGrady and rookie guard-forward Chase Budinger for Andre Iguodala and Samuel Dalembert. In fact, the Rockets wanted to do this deal. The money works and the Rockets were willing to take on Iguodala’s $56 million remaining contract and Dalembert’s $12 million next year.
I went from speechless, to frustrated to flat-out angry in the span of about two minutes staring at my computer screen. Are you kidding me Sixers?
Fagan quotes Sixers GM Ed Stefanksi concerning his reasoning for turning down this deal and deals like it: “We’re very active and a lot of teams are looking for us to do financial deals, to send back expiring contracts and we want to improve the product on the court.”
Please explain to me the thinking behind the desire to improve the current product that is on the court in Philly today. Improve this team by a few more wins so that just like the previous 3-4 years, we play ourselves right out of a top pick in the NBA Draft? Meaningless victories are the difference between coming up with Derrick Rose and Marreesse Speights in the draft. How many times is this going to happen? Apparently, at least once more.
I understand that Andre and Sammy are our two best defensive players, and I understand that it’s tough to basically tell your team and your season tickets holders that you’re not trying to win this season, but it’s for the greater good.
Just blow it up, please, for all of us. There is no one – I repeat, no one – on the Sixers’ roster that should be considered off limits or looked at as a vital building block for the future. Maybe Speights, because he has shown that he can produce points on the NBA level. Maybe Jrue Holiday because he is so young. Andre Iguodala would absolutely be a valuable piece to hold on to if there were other elite players on this team, but there are none. There’s no reason to have him play out his best years, toiling in obscurity, when there is future value to be had in exchange. Beyond those three? Lou Williams? Willie Green? Please.
A T-Mac deal would afford the Sixers the best possible chance to start fresh. Getting out from under the Iguodala and Dalembert contracts, while clearing McGrady-sized cap room would have been unimaginable just a few months ago. Hell, they’ve been trying to give Dalembert away to no avail for at least four seasons now and here comes their opportunity on a silver platter … and they said no. Plus, they would have received a promising young player in Budinger in return! They have no shooters (Jason Kapono can’t get off the bench) and no young athletes beyond Williams, Speights and Holiday – Budinger thrown in makes an already no-brainer deal even sweeter. And doesn’t that technically qualify as taking a step towards putting a better product on the floor?
I’m trying to wrap my head around the reasoning behind this and the only thing that I can think of is that Stefanski is gun-shy about the notion of having a ton cap space and the opportunity to make a splash in free agency. The last time he and the franchise were in that same position, Philly ended up with Elton Brand, his monstrous contract and the remnants of his once-dominant game. At the time, the deal seemed to make solid basketball sense, but knowing that we could today be watching Josh Smith fly up and down the floor pinning shots and dunking everything in sight instead is a tough pill to swallow for Philly fans. Hindsight though, as always, is 20/20.
If there’s one thing NBA GMs live in constant fear of, it’s getting fired. What if Stefanski again is a player in free agency and again makes the wrong choice? What if he doesn’t convince anyone to sign while every other team finds ways to ink a Chris Bosh, a Dwyane Wade, an Amar’e Stoudemire, and yes, a LeBron James, and Philly gets no one? Either one of those scenarios probably ends up with Ed looking for a new job. It’s much easier for him to sit back and say, “We didn’t make any of these deals because we believe in our young players. We don’t want to take a step back, we were only interested in improving the product on the floor.”
That’s the “safe” approach.
Sadly though, the safe play won’t equate into a contending team down the road, built upon smart free agent signings and top draft picks, but rather a middling franchise doing just enough to keep the status quo. If it’s true that Philly passed up this chance to set about wiping the slate clean by trading for T-Mac’s contract, it’s a real shame.
Philly deserves better.
Read Kate Fagan’s full post HERE
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